Friday, January 4, 2008

Lying on a Mission

Today I read a fascinating post on morality by BiV where she discussed the LDS concept of morality. She states morality is more than being sexual pure.
"Today I'd like to talk about some of the nuances to the word "morality." The meanings that we don't get in Mutual or Seminary or Sunday School. For purposes of this discussion, I would prefer to define "morality" as a system of ideas of right and wrong conduct.

We Mormons like to think of ourselves as a moral people. We accept the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament, Jesus' behavioral standards as described in the New Testament, additional ideals and clarification from the Book of Mormon, and random precepts such as the Word of Wisdom health code from the D&C. We even have our own rules of behavior that come from continuing revelation and church tradition. But out of all of these standards of morality, there are some in which we are truly invested, and some to which we merely give lip service."
One respondent said: "It seems a lot of our youth, even our full-time missionaries, don't always recognize what constitutes moral or immoral behavior and attitudes."

A practice that I consider immoral although it may not be a serious sin is missionaries lying on their missions to their mission leaders. As one that has served a mission I know that there is a lot of pressure on a missionary to perform well. Missionaries are expected to baptize people. In order to baptize them they need make contact with investigators, to place Book of Mormons, teach discussions, and make sure their investigators are worthy for baptism. In order to advance to callings on their missions they need to show results. Each week they send in statistics and a report to their mission presidents. Sometimes in an effort to advance in callings a small group of them make up statistics to advance in the mission field.

Some missionaries have no problem fudging the numbers. Having been a junior companion my entire mission I never sent in statistic since that is the job of the senior companion, district leader, and zone leaders. In my mission we would call in our numbers every week to our district leader who would contact the zone leaders. Missionaries don't want to appear as though they are slacking off so many of the times I would listen to my companions inflate the numbers. Whenever I would call them on the practice they would mostly just laugh and say what is the big deal. In our field there was a lot of pressure to produce. Our mission president told us that when we broke a hundred baptisms a month the power of Satan would be broken in Canada.

Dallin H. Oaks agreed:
"Another example is honesty. Some cultures allow lying, stealing, and other dishonest practices. But dishonesty in any form—whether to appease, to save face, or to get gain—is in direct conflict with gospel commandments and culture. God is a God of truth, and God does not change. We are the ones who must change. And that will be a big change for all whose traditions accustom them to thinking that they can lie a little, cheat a little, or engage in deceit whenever it brings personal advantage and is not likely to be detected.

A less serious worldly tradition that conflicts with gospel culture is the idea of upward or downward movement in positions. In the world, we refer to the up or down of promotions or reductions. But there is no up or down in Church positions. We just move around. A bishop released by proper authority and called to teach in Primary does not move down. He moves forward as he accepts his release with gratitude and fulfills the duties of a new calling—even one far less visible."

Personally I have always operated from a different perspective. I was born in Illinois home of honest Abe Lincoln I grew up reading about how he would never tell a lie. We were taught George Washington when asked about cutting down a tree said: ""I can't tell a lie, Pa; you know I can't tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet." It was drummed in our heads in school. I remembered as a young Catholic altar boy hearing the priest proclaim that lying lips are an abomination to the Lord. I also learned at the end of my father's belt who would beat us if we lied about stealing. He would go down the row hitting hitting my two brothers and sisters and me, usually by the third round we would confess. My philosophy as a missionary was you could always get forgiveness rather than permission. Some of my companions would be stupid and lie. The mission president would be more unhappy than if you told the truth. It was better to tell the truth since the mission president usually let you slide saying next time ask me first with a chuckle rather than the latter which required a sermon.

When it is time for baptism there are times when it is convenient to less than exacting in the interview. I have know cases where the missionary some how forgot to ask the prospective convert whether they had an abortion or even permission from their husbands to be baptized. This is the exception rather than the rule most are very exact but a few slip by.

Most lying among missionaries occurs in little things. When I was a missionary I had an older companion who forced me to go to a pornographic movie The Swashbuckler which had a scene where a woman swimming underwater has her breasts bared. He actually took me aside and put his fist in my face and said he would beat me to a pulp if I didn't go. I said I wouldn't go so he grab me by the front of my shirt which broke down my resistance since I could tell he could take me in a fight. His being around 30 and a former navy man I shut my mouth fast. I could feel the strength in his arms which were like Popeyes. He said you don't have to watch the drive-in movie if you don't want to but you are going to be in the car. Right after there was a big mission-wide event if you had lived the mission rules for two months you could go to a Hamilton Tiger Cats CFL game. I had a problem of getting up on time and reported that on my weekly report. I was told I couldn't go. I questioned him about going and leaving me alone since I had to stay with the elder Mormon landlady. She helped me work on genealogy which actually turned in to a blessing of having hundreds of my relatives baptized. I said it was unfair that he got to go and I didn't and that he had lied on his report. He said I don't care I'm going anyway. He said just keep your mouth shut which I did knowing I would see him later at BYU and he would make good on his promise. Now that I am an old man I don't anticipate too much trouble.

My first experience with lying occurred the second week of my mission in the LTM. I had a companion who was a former quarterback at Weber State University. He was a great looking man with a pleasing personality. He had blond hair with an upper body that was well-defined. When we walked around BYU co-eds would try to talk to him on the streets. Even the sister missionaries hit on him. He was well-liked by all the other missionaries in our district. One day we were walking along on our way to St. Francis Hall from Allen Hall on the way to lunch when he said Elder can we stop and talk. I could tell something was deeply troubling him. I said sure Elder what do you want to tell me. As we stood in front of one of the apartment buildings he said I messed up and lied on my missionary interview when they asked about my moral worthiness. He told me he was being sent home the next day so he could clean up his act.

Gene R. Cook who was a very young Seventy who actually spoke to us in the Social Hall back in 1975 said later in Conference in 1994:
"With good reason, the First Presidency in March 1993 said, “Full-time missionary service is not a right, but a privilege for those who are called through inspiration by the First Presidency. … We are grateful for the unselfish response of those who prepare themselves to be spiritually, physically, emotionally, and morally qualified to be called as full-time missionaries” (letter to ecclesiastical leaders, Mar. 4, 1993).

Full-time missionary service is not a right, but a privilege! Some of our young people have not properly understood that. They have thought they could become entangled in sin, a little or a lot, “sow their wild oats,” and then work it out in the mission field. One young man told me he figured he could probably “get the best of both worlds.” How foolish! How thankful we ought to be that the presiding brethren lead us in worthiness, and that the Church stands as a bulwark against the tide of immorality that seems to be sweeping the earth!

Why can’t someone go into a missionary training center or into the mission field, repent of sins, and fix the problems there? Perhaps the best answer to that question is “Because the Lord says you can’t.” The First Presidency has given clear direction that this will not be the case. If someone lies his or her way into the mission field, having committed serious transgressions, he or she will be sent home.

Is it not better in every respect to follow the counsel of the Lord? He said, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (D&C 58:42–43)."

President Hinckley said in 2007 that we shouldn't despair:
"The war goes on. It is waged across the world over the issues of agency and compulsion. It is waged by an army of missionaries over the issues of truth and error. It is waged in our own lives, day in and day out, in our homes, in our work, in our school associations; it is waged over questions of love and respect, of loyalty and fidelity, of obedience and integrity. We are all involved in it—child, youth, or adult, each of us. We are winning, and the future never looked brighter."

The antithesis of lying is honesty. We need to be more honest as missionaries. The Lord can't bless us as fully if we are not honest. It is better to be chastened as a missionary for being slack you can always repent. Tell the truth you will feel better about yourself. You need to walk in the noon day sun by brushing out habits on dishonesty on a mission.

1 comment:

Jason said...

Very thoughtful post. I have to admit that I only lied about stats once: My companion and I were so depressed one day, we decided that we would work and not report the statistics so as to remove the only selfish motivation and purify our intents.